The Buffalo Sabres haven’t done too much of note early on this season. Thomas Vanek, however, has been notable since Day 1.
Despite missing a game with a muscle strain, Vanek still came into Thursday night’s action as one of the top point getters in the league. When the dust cleared after their tilt with the Boston Bruins, Vanek sat at the top of the entire National Hockey League with his point total.
While Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have gotten most of the attention for their respective hot starts, Vanek has been right there with them. Thursday night marked his second five-point performance of the season, which is simply absurd.
Three of those points saw the puck hit the back of the net, for the eighth hat trick of his career. The third goal was particularly nasty as Vanek dangled the puck in front of Tuukka Rask before flipping it right over his head to give the Sabres the 6-4 edge.
Even the assists were ridiculous for Vanek in this one, as he made a diving pass to Tyler Ennis, who scored to even things up at three. The fact that this is already Vanek’s second five-point game of the season is absolutely nuts. There’s no other way to describe it. Twice in less than two weeks.
What this performance has done is firmly establish Vanek as a Hart Trophy candidate. He has as many points this season as some teams have goals. He’s been on a tear and has a point in every Sabres game this season. Whether it’s putting pucks in the back of the net or handing out helpers, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that he’s been the game’s best player here early on.